Two days ago was Holocaust remembrance day in Israel. I stood in the heart of Tel Aviv as everything and everyone stopped in silence for a one-minute-long siren. During those 60 seconds, my mind filtered through horrific images of the concentration camps I visited in Poland this past November. I also reflected on my recent trip to Europe over spring break.
Two weeks ago, I visited Prague, Vienna, and Budapest; cities filled with deep Jewish history, which is often portrayed through art. One installation that resonated with me is a series of sculptures called Shoes on the Danube Bank. There are 66 pairs of old shoes to memorialize victims of the Holocaust that were murdered on the river bank. On this rainy, gloomy day, I stared at the wilted flowers and memorial candles without a flame. As I stood next to the empty, lifeless shoes, I thought about how lucky I am to stand in that same place as a proud Jew.
Our next stop was the biggest synagogue in Europe, the Dohány Street Synagogue. As we walked around the synagogue, we saw the Tree of Life sculpture, also known as the Emanuel tree. It is a willow tree inscribed with victims’ names on the leaves. After coming from the previous memorial, I felt hopeful thinking about the families that have stemmed from survivors, and the generations that are still to come.
Throughout this year, I have learned so much about my Jewish identity, and I know that I will continue to be an active member of my Jewish community while honoring the millions that could not.